How Dangerous Form of Shock Therapy, Indonesia’s Railway Therapy

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Indonesian officials are rushing to come with a solution to the newest hazardous trend in Jakarta: people who wander the city’s railway tracks looking for free “electric therapy.” Some say it’s a scam but people all over the country seems to embrace the therapy.

According to local media reports, because they believe it can cure all kinds of diseases, from diabetes to high-blood pressure to insomnia, several dozen people per day purposely electrocute themselves along the rails. People step aside for a while when the train is coming, but will hurriedly run back into a sleeping position on the tracks to feel electrical currents that is supposed to cure their ailments, as to their belief.

As word of the supposed miracle spread, train tracks in slum areas in northern Jakarta became trendy as impromptu clinics. Until recently, more than 50 people would show up at the city’s Rawa Buaya tracks every day. The numbers have dropped recently, since police and the state-run railroad erected a warning sign, but some people still come, convinced the tracks can cure them.

Murti Utami, a spokeswoman for Indonesia’s Health Ministry, says that there is no medical or scientific evidence to support the treatment. Officials have prohibited people to enter the site and implemented penalties of up to three months in prison or fines of $1,800. Despite this, it is difficult to police train tracks in Jakarta since it is stretch out in all directions across the city, often with people living bunched up alongside.

“We encourage these people to seek professional medical help,” Ms. Utami said. Indonesia offers free health care for its citizens, so anyone in need should go to a government clinic, she said.

According to Westhill Consulting Travel and Tours, Singapore, known to be a travel agency who mainly focuses on Jakarta, Indonesia, those who have experienced it believe that electricity absorbed from the metal rails can alleviate, even cure, a host of health problems, including hypertension, diabetes, rheumatism, gout, obesity and high cholesterol but we are working on something to reach out to people to make them aware that there is no truth in it.

Furthermore, Indonesians often gather to quacks and quirky cures. For instance, four people died in a stampede when thousands of people sought to meet a boy shaman called Ponari—believed to be in possession of a special healing stone—after he was struck by lightning and survived.

Certainly, some Indonesians put more trust in their faith healers and herbal-medicine doctors than in Western medicine. Indonesian officials believe education would help overcome the distrust of Western medical practices, Ms. Utami said. But a warning that everyone must know, this could be very dangerous.


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